What do you think will be the impact of the reforms announced by the Mexican government on socioeconomic development?
Any initiative is good if we look at the bright side. One of the government’s biggest challenges is to prepare the basis for Mexico’s future, in order to set the foundations for further development. These challenges include, among others, payments and taxes, contribution, etc. We need to work on the rules, the regulations and the Law, and here’s where we need a cultural change.
The media have to play a big role in this, as they have to encourage change towards a culture of respect and sustainability. Government and the leading brands and companies need to take the first step to accomplish this change, starting with education institutions, as they are the key figure and pillar of a good culture.
Which strategic sectors are driving the transition towards a knowledge-based economy?
The automotive industry has promoted this change; it has been growing constantly for the last 25 years, supported by the country’s current openness to foreign trade, which didn’t exist in the past. Due to this some of the sector’s entrepreneurs were absorbed by bigger companies, while others consolidated their businesses.
This industry continues to grow, although we can’t yet compete on a technological level with countries such as Germany, the USA, Japan, France or Italy. Many of these organisations have assembly plants in Mexico, with significant production, mainly for export to the USA and Canada, the big markets. These plants also produce auto parts that end up being assembled in other countries.
The challenge for us, as an organization and industry, is in the hybrid vehicle industry. It’s not as developed in Mexico as it is in the USA. Gas prices in Mexico are high, almost a dollar per litre.
The automotive industry will grow. The challenge is to make Mexico a more efficient car developer, with new technologies and hybrid and electric systems; we have to position ourselves as developers of added value, their lays an opportunity.
When it comes to maquila (assembly plants in Mexico), we must emphasise that it’s still a niche in the northern part of the country, but increasingly as well in the automotive industry clusters, in areas such as Puebla, Estado de Mexico, Toluca, Monterrey and Hermosillo; where you start to see the development of manufacture engineering, logistics, etc.
The opportunity is to develop Mexican engineering for components and parts at product level, but also at industrial process levels, production tool levels. For this to take off, to encourage and generate support you need the buttress of the government – both at the federal and local levels – as well as funding and international support. This is how you build trust.
Another industrial sector that offers opportunities is the aerospace industry, which is not yet at automotive industry levels, but is growing fast and has enormous potential. We have to remember that the workforce in Mexico is one of the best; which obviously helps. And in terms of logistics, transportation costs to assembly plants in the US are much cheaper.
Another key area for Mexico, found within the public initiative, is the energy industry. Companies such as PEMEX need to be restructured in order to allow private funding; it’s one of Mexico’s engines especially in the southeastern region, where everything revolves around the oil industry and major petrochemical complexes.
Another driver of the economy is the tourism sector. We have as an example the Riviera Maya, with the largest capacity for guest reception; but we also have other cities and tourist destinations where we can receive cruise ships with 3,000 travellers, like Puerto Vallarta. This also creates opportunities in sectors surrounding tourism, such as services, infrastructure and logistics.
It’s also important for Mexico to focus on developing and opening the public passenger railway transport system. President Peña Nieto has announced investments in this area; this would bring many opportunities, from design to operation and maintenance. Europe is a good example in this area. A rail network would greatly facilitate things in Mexico.
How does Plexus impact human capital?
Plexus International Mexico significantly influences two key sectors: the automotive and the aeronautical. We offer technical development in areas such as management systems and methodologies, including training and development for auditors.
Some of the products we offer to the automotive industry are recognised by the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), a leader in the improvement of quality in the automotive industry.
Since 2012, AIAG has established a collaboration agreement with Pro Mexico, in order to give professionals in the supply chain of the automotive industry (second level down), training programmes and qualification schemes with partial sponsorship. This project has been successful and we have great expectations for coming years. We, at Plexus International Mexico, support AIAG with the training and the examinations.
We also collaborate with the International Automotive Task Force in the development and deployment of third party auditors rating schemes. In aeronautics, we collaborate the same way with International Aerospace Quality Group.
These training and qualification schemes offered to professionals of these industries generate significant value for participating organisations, and personnel development for those attending the programmes.
Plexus International Mexico has collaborated with the Dirección General de Educación Superior Tecnológica de la SEP (Secretariat of Public Education) to provide auditor training courses in quality and environmental management systems to personnel from different technological institutes throughout Mexico.
Plexus has developed a scheme that allows industry auditors –through a certification organisation – access to information for a better understanding of the industry, its perspective and requirements as a global industry. And they make the qualification process through online examinations.
This is the support Plexus is offering to automotive companies, and we have a similar scheme with aeronautics through the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG), where auditors can also make inquiries and qualify.
Some cases require both classroom training and online training. In the automotive industry, third-party auditors qualifying for the first time have to go through classroom activity and presence assessment. After this process is completed, they must be certified and complete the qualification process and online examinations.
Now, if you are a qualified auditor, you need to renew your qualification and pass the online assessments. We support the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) through the International Automotive Oversight Bureau (IAOB), their monitoring officer. We also collaborate with the AIAG, especially in the auditors training part and the tool development for design and production process for the day-to-day operation.
Currently, AIAG has a direct collaboration agreement with Pro Mexico. In this project, AIAG gives a five-day course, with a less specialised exam than for third-party auditors. This programme tries to support second-level companies.
Pro Mexico contributes with a significant part of the cost of this service. The supplier has to pay in advance. After participating in the activity, he delivers the required documentation and Pro Mexico reimburses a significant percentage. We conducted the programme for the first time last year, and we had 10 training sessions in Mexico. It was a good programme.
How has this year been?
It started slow. There are many needs and requirements in the industry. That’s basically what Plexus does in collaboration with the automotive industry.
With aeronautics, the auditor’s qualification programme has been more successful in the US, Italy and Japan; maybe the industry there is a bit more mature. In Mexico, selling the recognition of International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) has not been an easy task.
What is the importance of strategic alliances?
In my opinion, without these partnerships it would have been very difficult to work with the major companies. But now it is easier because we are at AIAG’s website.
It is essential to do a good job, to have qualified personnel and competent and adequate instructors. The challenge at aeronautics is to consolidate IAQG in Mexico. Yes, we have major suppliers, but we need more strength.
Talking about training, are there any collaborations between the government and private sector?
We need to explore more in this regard. Fortunately, the way we operate allows us to be self-sufficient. We have no need for government support, except for the AIAG programme with Pro Mexico. I think it is important to strengthen collaboration with the government, but it is also essential to link and partner with educational institutions.
Sometimes we become competitors, because there are some colleges offering the same services. In the end, Plexus forces no one; anyone who wants recognised and certified training can come with us.
When we are asked for training requirements at the German level, the question we ask is whether they want official recognition; if so, we tell them to call to the Volkswagen Institute, at Puebla.
What is the added value of Plexus?
Our global presence has led to big projects with AIAG and IAQG. We are small but have great business partners. We always give our best; we are focused and guided by the people sitting in the classroom, as it is them who have a need and want to reinforce knowledge and skills.
This attitude and disposition to attend to our customer is what defines us. Our policy is to offer mail and phone coaching at no cost. This serves as a link to strengthen our competitiveness; and there is a clear benefit for the client.
I’ve been collaborating since 1998 with ISO technical committees regarding quality management, and I do it because it gives me a sense of contribution. Throughout these years, I have created groups of international colleagues, and we keep each other up to date.
Besides, at Plexus International we have Jim Collins, one of the industry leaders, who directly participates in working groups in both the AIAG and the IAQG. For instance, AIAG is a liaison at the ISO 176 Committee, so I have direct access which really helps to keep us up to date on the industry.
How would you define the specialisation of Mexican human resources in the English-speaking market?
One of the advantages in the Mexican market is its bilingual training. In key sectors focused on exports, such as the automotive, aeronautics or medical devices, professionals must be bilingual; anything short of this would be a handicap. It is one of Mexico’s professional features. Mexicans are noted for their good knowledge of the language, compared to other Latin Americans or Europeans. This is particularly important since 90% of operations belong to the North American cluster.
One of the challenges the Mexican industry faces is that product development design and major decisions are not made here but in the USA, Germany, Japan or France. We adapt production processes to our needs and characteristics.
Industries linked to the USA have constant conference calls and virtual meetings in English, and it is important to be able to translate the information. Although in ISO’s case official translations exist. The translation working group deals with three technical committees: ISO / TC 176, responsible for quality management; ISO / TC 207 environmental management; and Committee ISO / CASCO conformity assessment. All of this committee’s rules are published in ISO’s official languages: French, English and Russian; at the same time they have an official Spanish version.
I’d like to finish this interview with a message from Plexus International.
Partnering with Plexus offers the experience and knowledge I have acquired while collaborating with different cultures in coaching and training programmes. We can engage in global projects, we have the capacity and know how. Opportunity may arise to involve our partners from Japan, Brazil or USA on a common global project. This is our great advantage.
Although we are small, our perspective and approach permits us to see collaboration and partnership from a different angle. We currently have a project where we are working with the AIAG and IAQG; we are also working with the SAE Institute to certify professionals on vehicle electrification. As a result of our collaboration with the USA, we have developed three certification schemes, which include security basics and fundamentals in vehicle electrification; another for professionals, and scientist level, which is considered the electrification guru.
We have a relationship with SAE because they support IAQG, since the IAQG site is sponsored by SAE. We decided to do a pilot project to develop online certifications, exams, review and query components, and develop classroom training schemes. This is one of our focuses, since this is where we think the future is heading. We want to make way for hybrid cars and reduce our petrol dependency.
I would like to emphasise that we are an organisation you can rely on, collaborate and work with. Our Spanish partner has the strength in human capital, human resources and specialised consulting. We urge human development and human capital. Yet we are seen now more as a firm focused on quality issues.
We have Mexican qualified personnel for training programmes, oriented towards quality management, environmental management and SafeWork. We are making a difference on human capital development through the support of Human Management Systems in Spain, who have an experience of over 20 years in the business